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Vietnam ascribes industrial park outbreaks to new Indian variant

By Le Nga, Chi Le   May 19, 2021 | 12:30 am PT
Vietnam ascribes industrial park outbreaks to new Indian variant
A medical worker handles vials containing samples for Covid-19 testing in HCMC, May 13, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
The coronavirus variant wreaking havoc in Bac Giang and Bac Ninh, associated with large-scale industrial parks, is Indian B.1.617.2.

Vietnam's latest Covid-19 wave that broke late last month has seen 1,539 community cases recorded in 28 cities and provinces. Bac Giang and Bac Ninh have recorded 527 and 332 cases respectively within mere days, owing to coronavirus hotspots associated with the provinces' industrial parks, which employ thousands of workers.

The National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology has performed genetic sequencing on 29 coronavirus samples in Bac Ninh, Bac Giang, their neighbors Hanoi, the capital's locked down K Hospital, Vinh Phuc and Hai Phong. Coronavirus variant B.1.617.2, first detected in India, was present in all sampled localities.

Bac Giang has shut down four industrial parks, which employ around 136,000 workers, to curb the spread of the disease as new infections keep sprouting. Its neighbor Bac Ninh meanwhile said it would temporarily suspend employing workers from Bac Giang to prevent infections. Both provinces have imposed coronavirus prevention measures, including partial social distancing in certain locations.

The Indian variant, making its first appearance in Vietnam in late April, contains two key mutations called E484Q and L452R, which have been found separately in other variants but not together in a single strain. These mutations have been seen to make the virus more transmissible and less susceptible to neutralizing antibodies, experts said. This variant has already been found among patients in outbreaks in Vinh Phuc, Hanoi, Ha Nam and Hai Duong.

The variant's particularly high transmissibility was credited to recent coronavirus outbreaks around the globe, including the latest Covid-19 wave in India that has pushed its medical system to the brink of collapse. World Health Organization (WHO) has also designated it as a "variant of concern," the same classification as another variant first found in the U.K. called B.1.1.7, which is more transmissible than ordinary strains but no more deadly.Vietnam has so far recorded the presence of the Indian variant, the U.K. variant, a variant called D614G first found in Europe, variant B.1.351 first detected in South Africa, and a variant called A.23.1 first witnessed in Rwanda.

Recently, Hanoi's National Hospital for Tropical Diseases said it has found two additional coronavirus variants in imported Covid-19 cases: B.1.222 and B.1.619.

Van Dinh Trang, who's with the microbiology and molecular biology department of the hospital, said the B.1.222 variant was detected at a coronavirus patient from Ukraine. This variant has been detected in 11 countries so far, and is most represented in the U.K.

The B.1.619 variant was found in an Indian expert. It could have originated from Cameroon before spreading in Europe, he added.

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